#AFK: Last Week’s Edition

  • Where I’m at:  Athens, Greece & detour to Venice, Italy
  • What’s next: Mykonos, Greece (in a few weeks)
  • What I’ve been doing:
    • Biennale-ing: Checked out the Venice Biennale with my endless cool & cultured friend, Suhair, and her lovely friends Priya and Paul. My favorites were: 1) Fortuny Intuition exhibit (magical!), and 2) the The Russian Pavilion (transported me into a Soviet sci fi novel), 3) Museo Correr + Shirin Neshat. (beautiful building, moving film). Had way too much of this and this
    • 447 BC Life: Saw the Parthenon before work on Monday and realized I’ve made some good life decisions
  • Things I’ve been reading / watching / listening to:
    • The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm: The author argues that love (not just romantic type) is an art form and breaks it into the mastery of theory & practice. A few points I found particularly interesting:
    • We focus too much on finding the right person and too little how to love.
      • “People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love—or to be loved by—is difficult.”
    • We treat people like property.
      • “Two persons thus fall in love when they feel they have found the best object available on the market, considering the limitations of their own exchange values. Often, as in buying real estate, the hidden potentialities which can be developed play a considerable role in this bargain. In a culture in which the marketing orientation prevails, and in which material success is the outstanding value, there is little reason to be surprised that human love relations follow the same pattern of exchange which governs the commodity and the labor market.”
    • We desperately want to cure “separateness,” but choose conformity or routine instead of love.
      • “It becomes a desperate attempt to escape the anxiety engendered by separateness, and it results in an ever-increasing sense of separateness, since the sexual act without love never bridges the gap between two human beings, except momentarily.”
      • “If I am like everybody else, if I have no feelings or thoughts which make me different, if I conform in custom, dress, ideas, to the pattern of the group, I am saved; saved from the frightening experience of aloneness.”
      • “Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinions as the result of their own thinking—and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as those of the majority. The consensus of all serves as a proof for the correctness of “their” ideas. Since there is still a need to feel some individuality, such need is satisfied with regard to minor differences; the initials on the handbag or the sweater, the name plate of the bank teller, the belonging to the Democratic as against the Republican party, to the Elks instead of to the Shriners become the expression of individual differences. The advertising slogan of “it is different” shows up this pathetic need for difference, when in reality there is hardly any left.”
      • “In addition to conformity as a way to relieve the anxiety springing from separateness, another factor of contemporary life must be considered: the role of the work routine and of the pleasure routine. Man becomes a “nine to fiver,” he is part of the labor force, or the bureaucratic force of clerks and managers. He has little initiative, his tasks are prescribed by the organization of the work; there is even little difference between those high up on the ladder and those on the bottom. They all perform tasks prescribed by the whole structure of the organization, at a prescribed speed, and in a prescribed manner. Even the feelings are prescribed: cheerfulness, tolerance, reliability, ambition, and an ability to get along with everybody without friction. Fun is routinized in similar, although not quite as drastic ways. Books are selected by the book clubs, movies by the film and theater owners and the advertising slogans paid for by them; the rest is also uniform: the Sunday ride in the car, the television session, the card game, the social parties. From birth to death, from Monday to Monday, from morning to evening—all activities are routinized, and prefabricated. How should a man caught in this net of routine not forget that he is a man, a unique individual, one who is given only this one chance of living, with hopes and disappointments, with sorrow and fear, with the longing for love and the dread of the nothing and of separateness?”
    • Love is an action, not a state.
      • “In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving.”
      • “For the productive character, giving has an entirely different meaning. Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence as joyous.[3] Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.”
  • Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra: (Still reading) Most recent thought – I wonder if the endless pursuit of material wealth will seem barbaric one day
    • “This religion of universal progress has had many presumptive popes and encyclicals: from the nineteenth-century dream championed by The Economist, in which capital, goods, jobs and people freely circulate, to Henry Luce’s proclamation of an ‘American century’ of free trade, and ‘Modernization Theory’, which proclaimed a ‘great world revolution in human aspirations and economic development’.”
    • “The ‘Western model’, however, offered a story of painless improvement. Generations to come may wonder how a mode of wish-fulfilment came to be conventional wisdom; how an ingenuous nineteenth-century philosophy, which posited universal patterns and an overarching purpose in history, managed to seduce so many intelligent people in the twenty-first century. It won’t be possible to understand its appeal without examining the post-1945 climate of ideas in the United States.”
    • “He was disturbed by America’s aggressive new individualistic culture, in which human beings suddenly seemed to have no higher aim in life than diligent imitation of the rich, and leaders in higher education as well as business, politics and the press were judged by their ability to make that opportunity widely available.”
    • “Keeping Up with the Joneses Nevertheless, the stealthy Europeanization of the world that Dostoyevsky witnessed in its early stages is now complete. There is hardly a place on Earth, not even in Borneo or the Amazonian rainforests, that has not felt the impact of the Atlantic West, its ideas and ideologies of materialism, and their mass-produced Americanized versions.”
  • Quotes I’ve been underlining:
    • “When the body functions spontaneously, that is called instinct. When the soul functions spontaneously, that is called intuition” – Shree Rajneesh
  • Thoughts I’ve been thinking:
    • Why does American culture idolize the self-made man / the lone hero over something more collective (that’s also likely more accurate)?
    • What will be left of my generation’s contributions to the internet in a few centuries? What will be remembered? What will be forgotten? Why?
  • What I’ve been seeing:

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